The Beers of Prince Edward County

Looking for a quick getaway for a couple days, we chose Picton in Prince Edward County (PEC) for a couple of reasons.  We had friends and family that had visited and had a great time, the beautiful sunsets and lush vineyards on Instagram were a definite plus and it was only a few hours from home, and of course, wine!  As we looked at a few destination stops, we were delighted to see how many craft breweries there were among the popular wineries.

We lucked out and found a Bed and Breakfast on short notice, it was also the first long weekend of the season.  It was an awesome find – more on that on an upcoming post!  Picton is a few hours away and it was a pretty straightforward drive on the highway.  We arrived in town late Friday afternoon, checked into our place and since the sun was shining on what was supposed to be a rain filled weekend, we hit the first patio we found that was a few minutes away – 555 Brewing Co.  We shared a table on the patio with a local resident – all the tables were full so we asked if we could join him, he was sitting alone at a four seater and we wanted to enjoy the sunshine.  I’m not shy!  He was happy for the company and told us he moved to PEC from Toronto and that he felt he had won the lottery, finding the slower pace a welcome relief from bustle of the big city.  He was happy to share some of his favourite places as well.

555 Brewing Co

555 Brewing Co opened March 2017 and their brand and beers borrow from an infamous murder in the area in the late 19th century.  It was believed that it was an intended robbery of $555 that was paid to a

555 sign
555 Brewing Co,  Photo by MT Linehan

farmer for a load of hops and an unfortunate guest of the intended target was shot and killed.  The killer’s footprints were tracked in the snow and confusion ensued.  It is believed that the wrong men were accused and hung for the crime.   The beers are aptly named –  “The Judge”, a helles lager, “The Jury”, a pale ale, “Footprint IPA” which was my fave,  “County Secret” a cider infused with hops which is a collaboration between County Cider and 555.  They even have “The Executioner”, “The Witness” and more.  My

555 flight
555 Flight.  Photo by MT Linehan.

flight was a selection of six samples.  Good stuff.  Great story.  The also serve wood fired pizza  and it looked delicious. They have an onsite shop that sells merch, beer, as well as growler fills.  Great place to relax on the patio, kids are welcome and they have a small area for kids to play while you relax with a flight.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

That evening our B&B host suggested we drive to Sandbanks Provincial Park and catch the sunset as it was likely our only evening we would see one.  Our host purchases passes for her guests to use for the summer, another nice touch.  We drove about 25 minutes from Picton, making note of a few wineries and stops to make, found the park and the beach – which is literally surrounded by sandbanks which we had to climb to get to the water.  Incredibly steep!!  Tip:  there was a parking lot that had a cleared opening through the sandbanks where you could walk straight through if scaling a 70 degree incline of sand is not your thing!!  Yes, we climbed that sandbank and yes, we had a good laugh when we noticed the clearing on the drive out!!  How the hell did we miss it??   The

sandbanks sunset
Sandbanks Sunset.  Photo by MT Linehan

beautiful white sand beach was gorgeous.  The sunset?  Totally worth the climb!  We will definitely make the trip back in warmer weather for a beach day.  After climbing off our afternoon beers and on the recommendation of  our new found patio friend,   we headed to Wellington to visit Midtown Brewing for some more craft beers and a killer burger.

Midtown Brewing

The town of Wellington has lots of quaint shops and restaurants.  We arrived at Midtown Brewing  a bit later and the taproom was packed.  We opted to sit at the bar instead of waiting for a table.  As a side note, I highly recommend doing this when

midtown flight
Midtown Flight.  Photo by MT Linehan

you are visiting a new city or town – sit at the bar if there is one.  Usually the folks behind the bar live in the area and they are happy to offer their recommendations of places they like to go.  Midtown Brewing is a newer brewery in PEC, opening in 2017.  The menu definitely has some flare and they are not your standard pub plates.  I wanted the mussels and the pea tartine caught my eye and I saw the east coast shrimp roll go by.  Oh my.  What to do??   I went with the burger as it came highly recommended and after battling sand dunes and the drive up the 401,  we had developed a hearty appetite.

The burger did not fail to impress the hell out of us.  The shoe string fries were to die for.  Their secret is the 24 hour soak which removes excess

midtown burger
Midtown Brewing Burger.  Photo by MT Linehan

starch and stops them from sticking together when frying and clearly makes them highly addictive.  You seriously need to try them.  There is bar seating on either wall as well as plenty of table seating.  Aside from a selection of their own beers, they also have guest taps from local breweries, cider options, a selection of local wines, as well as cocktails.  The shop offers local meats and cheeses and veggies from local farmers as well as brewery merch and of course beer in cans and growler fills.  Highly recommend you make this a stop on your PEC tour!!

Barley Days

Mother nature was true to her word and Saturday morning was drizzly and overcast. But the show must go on!!  After a few winery stops, the

barley days sign2
Photo by MT Linehan

folks at Black Prince Winery recommended a stop at Barley Days Brewery, which we remembered seeing on our drive into town the day before.  The oldest brewery in PEC, they opened their doors in 2007.  The taproom is small and busy, but they have a patio out front and luckily the rain had stopped at this point.  As an added bonus, Big Mike’s BBQ food truck was on site and the timing was perfect for a late lunch.

barley days flight
Barley Days Flight.  Photo by MT Linehan

Another major bonus, some live music!  A great blues duo entertained us as we ate a Big Mike’s Sammy of delicious smoked brisket, with coleslaw, housemade beans and pickles and sampled another flight of beers.  Barley Days had 8 beers on tap and lots of fun beer related merchandise available for purchase as well as take away bottles.

pec bbq plate
Big Mike’s Sammy.  Photo by MT Linehan

There were several other breweries in PEC that we didn’t get to visit, so a return trip is in order that will include more wineries, more breweries, some beach time and some more local shopping.   In order to cover all the bases, I recommend a full week in PEC.  Picton seemed like a good central location but there are plenty of cottages, motels and hotels, AirBnb’s, Bed and Breakfasts and even camping at Sandbanks when it comes to looking for accommodations.  Along with the missed breweries and wineries, there were several other dining recommendations that we just didn’t have time to fit in.  But isn’t it always good to have something else to look forward to on a return visit? What’s your go to PEC brewery?   Favourite pour?  Drop me a line and let me know.  Cheers to sharing plates and filling your glasses on your visit to Prince Edward County.

Until the next MTPlates post, eat well, drink well and laugh well…

Cheers!

 

Mmm…Beer!

What a fantastic time to live in Hamilton.  Home to an exploding food scene, incredible cocktail scene, diverse art scene and one of the country’s best music scenes.  What more do we need?  Beer!  And more beer!  Step aside steel, we have beer, and some of the best in the country.

Hamilton boasts 5 craft breweries that started with Collective Arts Brewing taking over the old Lakeport site on Burlington Street and one by one, they popped up.  The latest addition is Clifford Brewing.

clifford sign
photo by MTLinehan

Located in a former mattress factory, Clifford Brewing is anything but asleep at the switch.  Boasting some award winning brews, the brewery is easily accessible from the QEW and the Red Hill Parkway and is a welcome addition to the east end of Hamilton.  The taproom boasts 7 taps flowing with some tasty beers.  It quietly opened in January and has enjoyed a steady stream of craft beer fans.  It’s award winning Clifford Porter, Pinball Wizard IPA and alike are worth the quick detour.

On the day I visited, Jeremy was behind the bar and was happy to answer questions.  This seems to be a common characteristic of craft breweries in Hamilton; staff members are always friendly and happy to share their knowledge.

The taproom is quite large and can accomodate a few good sized groups with ample seating.  When I was there last, they only opened Friday – Sunday.  It would be great to see them open all week!  hint…hint…  Now back to that award winning Porter.

clifford porter
Photo by MT Linehan

This is probably one of the best porters I have had.  A bonus for all you porter fans, they also have this at the brewery as a nitrous porter.  The nitrous is so creamy, with a big hit of coffee and chocolate and tasted great with the peanuts in the shell offered in the taproom.  But here’s the catch…sole brewmaster and owner Brad Clofford only makes the nitrous one keg at a time and it’s only available in the taproom.  Sounds like our Irish friends at Guinness hold the rights to the widget.  Canning is done in sessions and cans of Brad’s other delicious brews are available onsite for purchase or bring your growler.  Flights are 6oz pours and full 12 oz glasses are also available.  They also have shirts, glassware and we encouraged Brad to expand into other merch.

On May 12 they are celebrating with an open house.  8 taps, Curbside Grill food truck, new beer releases, including Devil”s Punch Bowl India Session Lager and a special cask event.   Great stuff coming out of East Hamilton.  While

clifford taproom
Photo by MT Linehan – lots of seating

you are there you can even throw some darts or play some pinball…see if you will be crowned Hamilton’s newest Pinball Wizard.

If you are a craft beer enthusiast, you will enjoy having a seat at the bar, sampling a flight and discussing all things beer with these guys.  They are friendly and happy to talk beer and really, that’s what it’s all about!  Cheers!

 

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Photo by MT Linehan

 

 

 

 

We Interrupt This Spring…

If you read my last post, you might be under the impression that by this time, we would be looking at daffodils and tulips sprouting in Hamilton.  Well, Mother Nature really does now how to rain on our parade.  Freezing rain to be precise!  While we sit and lament the spring that was, much of southern Ontario is covered in a blanket of ice and we retreat into our warm homes or venture out, looking for a cozy spot and ignore the weather.  If you are in need of great conversation, amazing dishes and fantastic selection of spirits, I’m sure either of these places will fit the bill.

The Capitol Bar 

The Capitol Bar is a cozy and welcoming experience.  Located on King Street East, it is slowly and steadily growing roots and has become the gem in the neighbourhood.  Behind the bar, Derek is always chatting with patrons and making menu

C bar old fashioned
Photo by MT Linehan

recommendations as well as mixing up his cocktail creations.  He has an interesting and growing selection of single malt whiskeys and nice variety of my favourite spirit, bourbon.   They also offer a pretty nice list of craft beers and wines.  Derek is always on the lookout for interesting whiskeys and has provided helpful info on what local stores carry particularly hard to find whiskey.

As for the plates, for a small kitchen, they put out some amazing dishes.  Their pickles and mustards are housemade and the dishes are freshly prepared.  They have some great app selections as well as a weekly oyster offering and a regular “burger and pint” night.  Sundays are traditional Sunday dinner, reminiscent of home cooked roast beef, mashed potatoes and veg.  The kitchen also runs a few features that aren’t on the menu regularly, including some apps and a nightly dinner feature.

C bar terrine
Photo by MT Linehan  
C Bar shelf2
Photo by MT Linehan

One evening when I stopped in, they had a bacon wrapped pork terrine, served with fresh greens, those delicious housemade pickles, mustards and crostini.  (Wha?  you had me at bacon!!).  The rustic terrine was moist and delicate, yet hearty and the added flavour of the bacon was delicious.  The richness of the terrine was rich was well balanced by the pickles and freshly dressed greens. The terrine also held up well against the Four Roses Single Barrel 100 proof bourbon I was drinking.  A rich dish paired with a higher proof spirit can cut through the burn and really bring out different flavour notes in the pour.  I felt certain this plate was something I would have been served in a farmhouse in the south of France.  So good.

The rest of the menu has some some great shareable apps including cheese boards, charcuterie, stuffed mushrooms and croquettes.  Nothing typical on this menu.  A little culinary adventure is a good thing and the Capitol Bar checks all the boxes.  Sometimes you just need a couple of small plates to graze on.  Oh hey, did I mention the live music?  Usually acoustic and somehow they manage to play at just the right level so you can still have a conversation and enjoy the music.  When there is no live music, Derek is spinning vinyl and playing classic tunes from a wide range of genres.  I think if you ask nicely, he might even take requests.  A really warm, welcoming vibe in this east end neighbour bar.

L’Etranger

I stumbled across L’Etranger  last summer during Art Crawl.  It was packed with people of all age groups, which was nice to see.  It’s a great stop on James Street before dinner or a concert or even to sit and stay for the evening.  The staff are welcoming and friendly and impressively remembered conversations we had on previous visits.

letranger cocktail2
Photo by MT Linehan

I originally thought of them as a wine bar, but they have a fantastic whiskey collection, some select craft beers on tap and a cocktail menu that John prepares with artistic care.  Despite not having an actual kitchen to work out of, the small plates created by Chef Mitchell Gatschuff are impressive.  He even took a moment to breakdown how he makes his pickled grapes, which I fell in love with on a earlier visit.  Have a question about the menu items?

letranger taost
Photo by MT Linehan

 

Chef Mitchell is happy to describe the ingredients and thoughts behind each plate and you can tell he does this with passion, care and attention to detail.   His chicken liver mousse is set on sour dough toast and topped with those pickled grapes that offer that tart tang that complement the richness of the chicken liver mousse.  I’ve also had the mousse served with crostini and either way, it is a delicious shareable plate.  He has come up with a new spring menu that I am eager to try, including an asparagus, proscuitto and burata dish served with housemade habanero marmalade that looks and sounds divine.  Tourtiere, duck croissant, croque monsieur are also some of the items on the new menu.

letranger oysters
Photo by MT Linehan

They have a weekly oyster special, serving fresh malpaque oysters supplied by the good folks at Tide & Vine and served with housemade sauces.  A great price point for these super fresh oysters.

They host an open mic night, have an evening of salsa dancing and have had local writers share their work.  Local artwork is

displayed on the walls as well as large painted murals depicting images based on the novel by Albert Camus and the bar’s namesake, L’Etranger.  Interesting conversation starter for sure.  Whether you arrive with a group, a friend, or on your own, you will quickly find that there are definitely no strangers here.

Stay tuned as we explore more local spots and share our empty plates and glasses, while we live in hope for spring to arrive with open patios and spring blossoms.  Cheers!!

 

 

Brunch, with a hint of Spring…

The long awaited thaw has happened and with fingers crossed, we can only hope that Mother Nature is finally going green.  And while I like brunch anytime of the year, there is something about sunny

20180324_124743
Photo by MT Linehan

skies and a cool breeze that energizes and invites us to get out for a little “me time”.  Therefore, cocktails avec brunch, s’il vous plait!

The French is from one of my favourite restaurant groups in Hamilton, Equal Parts Hospitality.  A french bistro, with a cozy, yet elegant atmosphere.  Service is always personable and attentive.   It doesn’t seem to matter what time you arrive, the bistro is buzzing, so reservations are highly recommended.  Brunch is served on weekends until 3pm, so you have all week to wait in anticipation.  I’ve had lunch and dinner here but this was my first brunch experience.  As expected, it was fantastic.

Brunch is family friendly, complete with high chairs and a children’s menu.  If you are lucky, you can snag a seat by the front windows or sit at the chef’s table and watch all the magic happening.  Hopefully, we are in the clear for snow (ahem, Mother Nature!), and as the temps rise, there will be patio seating to people watch along King William.

The French embraces the bistro style and offers something for everyone.  If you are looking for simply coffee and pastry, they offer an assortment of croissant and scones or you can enjoy them while you wait for your mains.  It’s brunch, go for it! With plates like duck waffles, pain perdu, avocado toast, eggs benedict, omelettes, tostado rancheros and the englishman, how does one choose?

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Tostada Rancheros. Photo by MT Linehan

After it was determined that a return visit needed to be planned, the first plate was the Tostada Rancheros.  Three tortillas layered with smokey black beans, cheese, topped with salsa fresca, guacamole, poached eggs and finished with lime crema.  The fresh flavours of the guac and salsa were perfect with the black beans and eggs.  Those potatoes though.  I could eat a plate of them!  Salad was an option as a side, but do yourself a favour and get the potatoes.  You are welcome.

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The Englishman.  Photo by MT Linehan

Our other plate was ‘The Englishman’, a generous portion  of bacon, sausage and eggs with sides of braised beans, those amazing potatoes and toasted brioche.  This dish was a hearty portion to say the least.  Perfect for those who prefer a traditional breakfast while the rest of us indulge ourselves in the chef’s bistro creations.

I only wished we had a third or fourth person with us so we could try more plates!  I need a brunch alert that I can send out like the bat signal.   The flow of the restaurant from seating to eating is a testament to it’s success.  Such a smooth operation.  Having a fantastic Chef de Cuisine at the helm helps too, delicious plates, Chef Forcier!

Ahh, another empty plate and contented appetite.  We finished our brunch with a much needed walk along King William and James North and we may or may not have stopped for some chocolate and coffee.  Do yourself a favour, embrace the arrival of spring like a long awaited friend and venture out for brunch at The French and don’t forget to tell me what was on your plate…